While many their counterparts near international borders or the coasts have a distinct advantage to forging international ties, landlocked states like Oklahoma often rely on building on personal connections through well-known public servants and private citizens. One former Oklahoma politician, Roger Randle serves just such role as the honorary consul for the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.
The Tulsa-born Randle first went abroad as a member of the Peace Corps, a volunteer program begun during the Kennedy Administration that sends Americans abroad to tackle the most pressing needs of people around the world. When asked on how a native Tulsan found himself heading across international borders and time zones to serve others on behalf of the United States at the height of the Cold War, Randle laughs.
“That’s a natural question us Peace Corps people ask each other, ‘Why did you go into the Peace Corps?’” said Randle. “I was at the very beginning of the program, and in those days it was quite a romantic undertaking. It was a combination of a sense of adventure and a confidence of believe in our ability to go out into the world and do good based on our best intentions.”
Randle explained that the sense of Americans’ “can do” mentality often ran into the reality of life on the ground once their assignments began.
“We learned that these local people know about some things a lot better than we do. We got caught up in reality.”
Randle served a year in the Peace Corps, stationed in the Brazilian of Pernambuco. In a somewhat strange twist, Randle’s future wife was also serving in Brazil at the same time in the adjoining state, though they did not meet until years later.
Though his stint in Brazil was cut short due to the death of his father, Randle is fluent in Portuguese. In fact, he says that the majority of the reading he does to this day is in it or Spanish.
“When I was a civil servant for the City of Tulsa, there wasn’t very much global interest in Oklahoma, but I did travel. Whenever I had my vacation time, I would leave the country and head to Mexico or South America. I went because in those days, with airplane tickets being so expensive, I tried to visit places that didn’t require a lot of flying.”
Returning to Oklahoma, he was elected to the state house of representatives in 1970 and state senate in 1972. He served four terms total as a senator, twice as President Pro Tempore. While focused on Oklahoma’s domestic concerns as a member of the legislature, Randle maintained an interest in the world outside America’s borders. He credits the vision of Governor George Nigh and Lieutenant Governor Spencer Bernard with helping expand Oklahoma’s international ties.
“We had leaders who had a vision of the value of being international, and I wanted to be a part of it,” he recalled.
In 1988, Randle moved from the statehouse to city hall as the elected mayor of Tulsa. In that role he led the way in developing that town’s international ties, including extending invitations to the then-president of Venezuela.
“We tried to raise the horizon of the community of the value and importance of international ties,” he explained. “We had activities to get the community involved, and I supported the effort to bring the national conference of the Sister Cities Program to Tulsa while I was mayor.”
As the former mayor looks back at the conference, in which he and the Sister Cities’ representative entered on horseback, he notes it as another great opportunity to build Oklahoma’s international ties. Through Tulsa’s hosting of the event, then-Mayor Randle served on the Sister Cities’ national board of directors, a position that eventually led to a term as the president and chairman of the group.
Randle also sits on the board of the Governor’s International Economic Development Team, the Oklahoma Governor’s International Team and the Tulsa Global Alliance. He is past chairman of the Tulsa Committee on Foreign Relations and a former member of the U.N. Association of Northeastern Oklahoma. He is currently Director for the Center for Studies in Democracy and Culture and a professor of human relations at the University of Oklahoma’s Tulsa campus.
Prominent amongst those roles is his current position as the Honorary British Consul in Oklahoma. Randle is amongst a handful of honorary consuls in the Sooner State working as local representatives of foreign nations in their relations, be they commercial, cultural or educational with Oklahoma.
“I have enjoyed being able to observe the British administrative system,” noted Randle. “It’s fascinating for me to see administrators in a different national and cultural context operate when we have meetings. We have such close cultural ties to the U.K., but the differences are very interesting.”
If you would like to learn more about the honorary consuls based in Oklahoma, please contact the Rico Buchli of the Oklahoma Governor’s International Team. If you would like to learn more about Roger Randle, Honorary Consul for the United Kingdom, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
(Top photo: Tulsa Skyline – By Caleb Long)